Endowed by their Creator with Life and Liberty
Gathering in the City of Brotherly Love and the birthplace of American liberty, approximately 2,000 Knights, their families and guests attended the 133rd Supreme Convention Aug. 4-6. Nearly 100 archbishops and bishops — including 11 cardinals — were joined by dozens of priests who concelebrated the opening Mass, offered in honor of the family.
The international assembly met at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, just weeks before the World Meeting of Families would be hosted in the same venue.
The theme of the convention — “Endowed by their Creator with Life and Liberty” — was inspired by the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia in 1776.
In a letter of greeting from Pope Francis, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy Father commended the Order for its charitable work and focused on the importance of promoting marriage, family and religious freedom.
In particular, the letter noted “the duty of American Catholics, precisely as responsible citizens, to contribute to the reasoned defense of those freedoms on which their nation was founded.”
It also drew attention to the World Meeting of Families and the Order’s new Holy Family Prayer Program, which was launched following the opening Mass.
In his annual report, delivered during the opening business session Aug. 4, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson detailed the Order’s accomplishments, underscoring how they are rooted in love of God and neighbor.
“When we look into the face of each person, we see the source of life, liberty and human dignity, and therefore we see a brother,” the supreme knight said. “To be a Knight of Columbus is to be a man for others.”
The supreme knight also spoke about the continued growth of the Knights of Columbus and its charitable work. The Order has grown to nearly 1.9 million members worldwide, and its charitable contributions surpassed $174 million and 71.6 million hours of voluntary service last year. Similarly, Knights of Columbus Insurance protects more Catholic families than ever, with over $96.7 billion in force at the time of the convention.
The convention highlighted numerous charitable programs, including the continued success of the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative and the Order’s sponsorship of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, which took place in Los Angeles the preceding week. Among many other K of C initiatives highlighted were programs to feed the hungry, to provide housing for wounded veterans, to help orphaned children in Africa, and to assist with disaster relief in the Philippines.
Likewise, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund, which was launched in August 2014, received particular attention throughout the convention.
“The Knights of Columbus will redouble our efforts to bring aid to these victims in the Middle East,” the supreme knight said in his report. “It is a time for action.”
The theme of fraternal solidarity with victims of violent religious persecution was accentuated during the States Dinner, when two special guests — Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, C.Ss.R., of Erbil, Iraq, and Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria — delivered impassioned keynote addresses about the suffering their people have endured. They also expressed gratitude for the Order’s spiritual and financial support.
For the second time in history, and the first time since 2005, the Supreme Convention also included a Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy in addition to other large Masses.
On Aug. 5, the annual awards session honored individual Knights and councils for outstanding achievements during the past fraternal year.
Delegates also passed board resolutions during the convention in defense of religious liberty, the institution of marriage and the culture of life, and in solidarity with persecuted Christians.
This issue of Columbia feature photos, news and excerpts from the 133rd Supreme Convention’s proceedings, and the complete text of the Supreme Knight’s Annual Report.
Order Launches Holy Family Pilgrim Prayer Program
A new Knights of Columbus Prayer Program focusing on the Holy Family was inaugurated at the conclusion of the opening Mass at the 133rd Supreme Convention. The program features an image of the Holy Family by 18th-century engraver Giovanni Balestra, which is housed in the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia formally launched the program as state deputies representing the Order’s 74 jurisdictions held framed copies of the image, each bearing the blessing of Pope Francis. The archbishop also asked for prayers for the success of the World Meeting of Families in September and for the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will take place in Rome Oct. 4-25.
The images will be brought on pilgrimage from council to council to serve as the centerpiece for prayer services during the coming year. This is the 17th Orderwide prayer program featuring a sacred image. Since 1979, these rosary-based programs have attracted more than 17 million participants in over 147,000 prayer services.
Supreme Convention Highlights Plight of Christian Refugees
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, C.Ss.R., of Erbil, Iraq, and Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria, delivered keynote addresses at the States Dinner Aug. 4, offering firsthand accounts of religious persecution in their lands. They described the campaign of religious cleansing of Christians and other religious minorities who are being killed, tortured, or forced to flee from their homes by the Islamic State extremist group, also known as ISIS or Daesh.
Earlier in the day, the archbishops joined Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson at a press conference to raise public awareness about the suffering in the region.
“Please, speak for the Christians in the Middle East, because they have been subject to all kinds of violence because they are Christians,” said Archbishop Warda. “This is part of your heritage, this is part of being an American. Please speak for the persecuted around the world.”
Archbishop Jeanbart likewise gave stirring testimony about the grim situation in his war-torn country.
“We have seen people killed, slaughtered, women violated, priests and bishops kidnapped, houses destroyed, churches and convents invaded,” he said. “But we persist with the help of God and with the help of those who help us, like the Knights of Columbus.”
The supreme knight recalled that delegates to the 1926 Supreme Convention, also held in Philadelphia, took up the cause of Mexican Catholics, who were being persecuted and killed by their government
“We raised awareness about the issue, and financially helped many refugees who fled north,” said Anderson. “We were able to do much good, for many people. Today, we are compelled as an organization to speak up for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East as the world remains largely silent.”
During his annual report, the supreme knight invited his brother Knights to stand with him in solidarity for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, as they raised olive wood crosses and recited together a prayer on behalf of the victims.
“The blood of these martyrs cries out to you and me for help,” he said. “It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities.”
The Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund, which launched a year earlier, has already distributed more than $4 million to refugees in Iraq and Syria. This humanitarian assistance has included shelter for those who have had to flee their homes, as well as support for medical facilities in areas flooded with refugees.
For more information or to donate to the relief efforts, visit christiansatrisk.org.
‘Let Your Light Shine Before Others’
Editor’s Note: Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for the Prefeast of the Transfiguration at the Supreme Convention Aug. 5. The following text is excerpted from his homily.
In his 1995 apostolic letter on the Eastern Churches, St. John Paul II wrote: “Participation in Trinitarian life takes place through the liturgy and in a special way through the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the glorified body of Christ, the seed of immortality. In divinization and particularly in the sacraments, Eastern theology attributes a very special role to the Holy Spirit: through the power of the Spirit who dwells in man deification already begins on earth; the creature is transfigured and God’s kingdom inaugurated” (Orientale Lumen, 6).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us begin our journey of transformation, of transfiguration in this path of divinization, from the moment of our baptism. At that moment we have been “baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ.”
In a special way, men who choose to become Knights of Columbus, following in the footsteps of our founder, Father Michael McGivney, also experience a special transformation.
As a pastor, I was privileged to assist in the organization of a new council in my parish. I saw men who were never very active in church life join the Knights for the opportunity to work with others in parish programs. The power of fraternal prayer and works of charity in an atmosphere of unity with patriotic love for God, Church and country transformed these men and their families. This in turn inspired these Knights and their families to reach out in service to the needs of others, to live the Beatitudes. In the words of Our Lord, they become transformed into “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Mt 5:13,14).
Brother Knights, as the salt of the earth, you are valuable to the world. You preserve moral, ethical and religious values and teachings in a world challenged with evil and immorality. You also enhance and improve the quality and flavor of life for people around the world through your numerous acts of charity, just as salt enhances the quality and flavor of food. I personally know how thousands of people in Ukraine, including those wounded and psychologically scarred by war, have had their lives enhanced by the generous humanitarian aid of the Knights of Columbus, for which we are extremely grateful.
As the light of the world, you not only share the light of Christ in a darkened world, but by your example you let your light “shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16).
Slava Isusu Christu! Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Awards Session Honors Outstanding Knights, Programs
The annual Supreme Knight’s Award Session Aug. 5 recognized individual Knights, as well as councils, assemblies and Squires circles, for superlative achievement in the areas of membership growth and retention, insurance sales, and charitable outreach.
Here is a summary of some of the key awards and recipients, including the six international service program awards:
• International Family of the Year: Ron and Peggy Weingartz, married for 31 years, have five grown children. Ron, 53, past grand knight of St. Mary Magdalen Council 12295 in Brighton, Mich. Heavily involved in council activities as well as their parish’s religious education efforts, Ron and Peggy spearheaded a program that places ultrasound machines at local pregnancy centers through the Order’s Ultrasound Initiative. Together with their children, they were also the driving force behind a parish “Kids Against Hunger” campaign, raising funds to purchase food and organizing volunteers to re-package it into meals for distribution to families in need.
• Church Activity: St. Gabriel the Archangel Council 14492 in Chestermere, Alberta, raised more than $70,000 to help build a new church through their “Angels on High” initiative. Fundraising efforts involved 18 hikers — including Knights, fellow parishioners and the parish priest — who raised funds by climbing to the peaks of the Kananaskis mountain range. The council also held a silent auction and received donations from individual and corporate sponsors.
• Community Activity: Mar Toma Council 10981 in El Cajon, Calif., hosted a fundraising and prayer event on behalf of Iraqi Christians. The council rallied more than 1,000 people in the hall of St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon and raised $650,000. The funds were divided, with $300,000 sent directly to Christian refugees in Iraq, $200,000 to refugees in Turkey and $150,000 to the Adopt-a-Refugee-Family Program in Lebanon.
• Council Activity: St. Hubert’s Council 11658 in Harrison Township, Mich., raised funds for cancer research on behalf of a brother Knight diagnosed with incurable cancer. In less than five years, the council has raised more than $100,000.
• Culture of Life Activity: Father Lucien Galtier Council 4184 in West St. Paul, Minn., raised $100,000 so that the Wakota Life Care Center in West St. Paul could purchase an ultrasound machine and other items. Television actress Lauren Roman and former Minnesota Vikings player Matt Birk, a member of Council 4184, spoke at the fundraising banquet.
• Family Activity: Martinsburg (Mo.) Council 1270 came to the aid of the widowed mother of a member who died suddenly. Council members helped run her farm, harvest her crops and sell her farm equipment.
• Youth Activity: Cumberland (Md.) Council 586 offered shelter, food and other assistance to 78 high school students from Kansas who were stranded when their bus broke down on their return trip from the March for Life.
• Leading General Agents: Michael Rodriguez of Puerto Rico (336 percent of quota) and Sergio Urrutia of Florida (208 percent of quota).
• Leading Field Agents: Ronald Sandoval Sr. (520 percent of quota) and Ronald “Joe” Sandoval Jr. (518 percent of quota), both of the Baca Agency in California.
• Top Recruiter: Jose Noel T. Alcubilla of Visayas was recognized as the top recruiter of 2014-2015 for having signed up 145 new members.
• Century Club: Councils that add 100 members over suspensions and withdrawals are eligible for the Order’s prestigious Century Club Award. This year’s winners are: Cotabato City Council 3504 in Mindanao (136 members); Gen. T. de Leon Council 10695 in Valenzuela City, Luzon (120 members); El Salvador Council 9480 in Misamis, Mindanao (117 members).